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Joseph Wang
"Person", "Personal Property" and "Personal Act": How to Use Philosophical Notions in Ethical Decision-Making at Terminal-Ill Patients


The paper focuses on the use of philosophical notions "person" and "personal property" and their implications for end-of-life decision-making for terminal-ill patients, especially for the issues of the euthanasia and the debate on killing and letting-die. Some philosophers think that the relationship between "person" and "letting-die" is like this: if a human-being is (still) a person, then we cannot let her die; but if she is not a person (anymore), then let-go of her life isn't immoral. If this is true, then the conditions and the criteria of personhood will be crucial for ethical decision-making.

In this paper, I want to suggest another approach. Instead of asking the (ontological) question of conditions of personhood, we should first reflect upon the aims of medical treatments. Usually physicians do not reflect upon the ontological status of their patients, but they ask themselves rather what they can do to help the patients. "Helping a patient" can be viewed—in the light of the philosophical debate on personhood—as "enabling a patient for personal acts.” If this is true, then it is plausible that we can let a patient die when we cannot enable her for personal act anymore.

Joseph Wang studied medicine and philosophy in the University Innsbruck and the Medical University Innsbruck.  During his studies he became increasingly interested in ethical problems of the medical praxis and in philosophy in general.  Right now he is pursuing his doctoral studies in philosophy.  He is especially interested in ontology, logic and their relations to medical ethics.


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